To the Editor:

A recent guest column (“Shamelessly playing the race card,” 1/17) makes the bold and unfounded claim that the Democratic party has irresponsibly utilized the issue of race as a divisive tool to achieve political advantage over their counterparts, citing the recent controversy surrounding the resignation of Majority Leader Trent Lott as the latest manifestation of this trend. However, it is important to remember that many of Lott’s harshest and most vocal critics were fellow Republicans, including President Bush, who rightfully viewed the senator’s bigoted remarks and deplorable record on civil rights issues as evidence of his unfitness to serve as their party’s leader in Congress.

The column goes on to argue that “black Americans have been handing the Democratic party their vote without much contemplation for many years.” Not only is such a statement condescending towards intelligent African-American voters, but it seems to ignore the fact that black support for Democrats reflects a rational choice arrived at through a careful reflection upon the ideologies and policies of the two competing parties in our electoral system.

A troubling yet enduring reality is the tendency of class to be correlated with race due to the unfortunate legacy of institutional racism in our society. Rather than advancing policy prescriptions that seek to remove the barriers created by such discriminatory practices, Republicans have repeatedly promoted regressive economic policies with benefits accruing to the most affluent and cutbacks in social welfare spending, while simultaneously voicing opposition to affirmative action programs which strive to provide equal access and opportunity to higher education to historically disadvantaged groups. When viewed in this light, it seems that the tendencies observed in African-American voting are indeed a product of significant contemplation about which party’s political agenda is coincident with their interests. If Republicans want to truly reach out to minority voters, then they need to seriously reconsider their party’s platform rather than engaging in partisan attacks against their political opponents. They must show that their denunciation of Senator Lott was not merely a hollow gesture, but was truly evidence of a commitment to improving the plight of African-Americans in our country.

Jeffrey Mueller ’04

January 17, 2003